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Harbour Grace whale still alive, but in poor condition

This Minke whale was beached along the shores of Harbour Grace for quite some time, with many residents gathering to view the creature from afar Monday morning.
This Minke whale was beached along the shores of Harbour Grace for quite some time, with many residents gathering to view the creature from afar Monday morning. - Chris Lewis

Town would be responsible for disposal of carcass if found dead on shores

HARBOUR GRACE, NL — A beached whale in Harbour Grace found its way back to the ocean this afternoon.

A Minke whale had been stuck in the harbour near the S.S Kyle in Harbour Grace for quite some time, with residents taking notice of the creature early Monday morning. Now, however, the whale is nowhere to be seen, and has moved on from its stint in the community for now.

Wayne Ledwell with Whale Release and Strandings, a non-profit group based out of St. John’s that responds to situations regarding marine animals caught in ice or stranded on shorelines, spoke with The Compass Tuesday about the whale, which was widely believed to be dead. Ledwell, however, explained that the whale was in fact alive and had swam around the harbour for a couple hours before disappearing again, presumably further out into the depths of the ocean and out of Ledwell’s sight.

“We went down there and the whale had actually moved out of that area where it breached, so I thought it could either be dead, or had moved on,” he explained. “We followed it all the way down to the government wharf, and that was it. The whale was alive when we left. Right now, as far as I know, it’s gone out as far as the harbour. We went out a bit further, thinking it would come back to marina, but never saw it after that.”

He added that the crew spent further time looking for it after losing sight of the whale but had no luck, assuming that the animal had gained back some energy after the tide rolled in, and gave itself a second chance at life.

Ledwell explained that, had the whale been found dead, they planned to work with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to perform an autopsy to have a look at the creature’s insides and internal organs. He said they would be looking for an obvious cause behind the whale’s state, which he noted was not good.

“When (the whale) was going along, it was coming up out of the water and there was a lot of kelp around the spout and dorsal fin,” he said of the creature’s state. “You can tell when a whale is sick. They’re supposed to be a bit round and almost fat, but this one was far from that. You could see the tips of its vertebrae sticking out of its back, and it was very concave. You could also see its shoulder blades, which you obviously shouldn’t be able to do. To me, it looked like a whale that was going to die.”

Ledwell also explained to The Compass that it is common for whales of this species to beach themselves when they feel as though their time has come. Judging by the clear health problems this particular whale was facing, Ledwell was not surprised to know that it had situated itself into the shores of Harbour Grace.

As for the future of the whale, Ledwell says it’s anyone’s guess. There is a possibility the creature will find its way back to Harbour Grace to beach again, or it may swim to another area entirely. If it does show up in Harbour race again, Ledwell explained that it would be up to the Town of Harbour Grace to properly dispose of the carcass, as is the case with any incorporated town or community in the province. From there, the body would likely be towed away to another beach, or buried, if the former outcome proves to be a lengthy and difficult challenge.

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